Round up: 13 affordable mountain bikes under $3000

Check out our collection of some of the hottest new mountain bikes for riders on a budget

27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Buyer's Guides Fat Bike Interbike Plus
$3000 is a key price point. Check out these options for 2016 affordable mountain bikes.

$3000 is a key price point. Check out these options for 2016′s best affordable mountain bikes (click to enlarge).

What does “affordable” really mean?

Last year after the cycling industry’s annual trade show known as Interbike, I did a write-up on some of the best value mountain bikes for 2015. Now, just as then, the amount of bike you can get for $3000 has never been higher. But using the term “affordable” is always risky – what’s affordable for one person can be way over the budget of another. For the hardcore enthusiast mountain biker, spending $4000-$5000 (or more) is the norm. But for a vast majority of riders out there, $3000 is the absolute upper limit of their bike buying budget. And of course, for others even $3000 is way too much (click here for our 27 best bikes under $1000 guide).

Trends for budget bikes

So, we visited several manufacturers at Interbike and asked them to show us their best value mountain bike near $3000. We told them it could be from any category as long as it was in the price range. Some trends we noticed while researching this article:

  • $3000 is a key price point for most brand (more shops will sell $2500-$3000 bikes than $6000+ dream bikes)
  • dropper posts are becoming more readily available at this price point
  • 1x drivetrains can be found on some models here (thanks mostly to SRAM’s GX line)
  • carbon frames still remains exclusive to hardtails at $3k and below
  • with the exception of fat bikes, dirt jumpers and some DH rigs – 26ers are truly dead

Out of the 13 bikes featured here, 9 are full suspension bikes and 4 are hardtails. Seven of the bikes roll on 27.5″ wheels, three are 29ers, two are 27.5 Plus and there is one lone 26er in the group. The selection includes two race ready carbon hardtails, two Plus bikes, one electric fat bike and several enduro/trail oriented full boingers (with alloy frames). Shown here in order from the least expensive to most expensive is our round up of 13 best affordable mountain bikes for 2016 around $3000.

The Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 710 is an alloy version of the high-end carbon Thunderbolt. This version offers a lot of performance for the price.

The Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 710 is an alloy version of the high-end carbon Thunderbolt. This version offers a lot of performance for the price (click to enlarge).

Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 710 – $1999.99

The Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 710 is a price point friendly aluminum version of their popular Thunderbolt carbon full suspension rig that is targeted toward the aggressive XC/trail rider. It features 120mm of rear suspension and rolls on 27.5″ wheels.

This bike features Rocky’s Ride-9 adjustable geometry and suspension to help further dial it in just right for the rider’s preference. The fork is a Manitou Marvel LTD with 130mm of suspension. A Manitou Radium Expert XC shock handles rear suspension duties. At this price, the drivetrain isn’t the latest 1x or even 2x, instead it is a Shimano 3×10. Brakes are Shimano hydraulic discs and the Thunderbolt rolls on WTB rims with Maxxis tires.

No matter how you look at it, the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 710 is a lot of bike for $1999.99. It is available in five sizes (XS, SM, MD, LG, XL) and is the most affordable bike here by a large margin.

Consider this bike if… you’re on a really tight budget but you want full suspension from a brand name you can trust.

To learn more, visit www.bikes.com.

The Surface 604 Boar is an aluminum framed fat bike with a stealthily placed battery and a 350 watt hub motor.

The Surface 604 Boar is an aluminum framed fat bike with a stealthily placed battery and a 350 watt hub motor (click to enlarge).

Surface 604 Boar E350 Electric Fat Bike – $2499

Electric mountain bikes are always a hot topic, but if there is one arena where they make sense it is in the fat bike, commuter, adventure bike category. Surface 604 is headquartered in BC, so they know mountain bikes. Featured here is the stealthily mounted (down tube) lithium ion battery that helps keep the center of gravity low while maintaining the aesthetics of a “real” mountain bike.

The Boar has a fat bike specific 350 watt hub motor and the frame has a tapered headtube, custom reinforced battery mounts, internal cable routing and post mount brakes. The Boar is spec’ed with a rigid fork, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM 1×10 drivetrain.

The Surface 604 Boar E350 electric fat bike is available in two sizes (small-medium 17.5″, medium-large 19″) and has a retail price of $2499.00.

Consider this bike if… you are into bikepacking and adventure riding and need the extra power to carry all your gear. The Boar E350 can also pull commuter duty.

To learn more about Surface 604, be sure to check out their featured Virtual Trade Show here: http://reviews.mtbr.com/surface-604-interbike-2015.

Featured here is the Scott Scale 710 Plus, an alloy hardtail with a Scott’s custom butted superlight tubing.

Featured here is the Scott Scale 710 Plus, an alloy hardtail with a Scott’s custom butted superlight tubing (click to enlarge).

Scott Scale 710 Plus – $2599.99

Without a doubt, Plus bikes were one of the hottest trends at Interbike this year and Scott is supporting the Plus size movement in a big way. They have a total of eight Plus bike models including 2 hardtails and 6 full suspension models for 2016. Plus mountain bikes use a wide rim and wider than normal tires, usually in the 2.8″ to 3.2″ range.

Featured here is the Scott Scale 710 Plus, an alloy hardtail with a Scott’s custom butted superlight tubing frame with internal cable routing for a dropper post. This bike is spec’ed with a Fox 32 Float Performance fork with 120mm of travel, SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain, Shimano disc brakes, Syncros cockpit parts, Syncros rims and hubs and Schwalbe Rocket Ron EVO 27.5×2.80″ tires.

The Scott Scale 710 Plus comes in four sizes (SM, MD, LG, XL), has an MSRP of $2599.99 and is available from your local Scott dealer now.

Consider this bike if… you like having a top name brand bike and you’re looking at something to make riding hardtails fun again.

To learn more, visit www.scott-sports.com.

The Haro Shift 27.Five Plus is a full suspension bike featuring the new Plus size wheels.

The Haro Shift 27.Five Plus is a full suspension bike featuring the new Plus size wheels (click to enlarge).

Haro Shift 27.Five Plus – $2609.99

Haro is another brand that is going big with Plus bikes. They have 3 Plus hardtails and the all new Shift 27.Five Plus full suspension in their 2016 lineup. The Shift 27.Five Plus has 130mm of four-bar design rear travel. The spec features a RockShox Reba RL fork with 120mm of travel, a RockShox Monarch RL Solo air rear shock, Shimano XT 1×11 shifter and cassette, WTB Scraper rims and WTB Trailblazer 2.8″ tires.

Consider this bike if… you’re on a tight budget but you’re Plus-size curious and a Plus hardtail just won’t cut it for your demands.

The Haro Shift 27.Five Plus is available in three sizes (16″, 18″, 20.5″) and has an MSRP of $2,609.99.

To learn more, visit www.harobikes.com.

The Marin Mount Vision 6 features a hydroformed aluminum alloy frame, 140mm of travel and 27.5

The Marin Mount Vision 6 features a hydroformed aluminum alloy frame, 140mm of travel and 27.5″ wheels (click to enlarge).

Marin Mount Vision 6 – $2749

The Marin Mount Vision 6 features a hydroformed aluminum alloy frame utilizing their SHOT Tech process for enhanced strength and weight savings. The Mount Vision 6 features 140mm of travel utilizing what Marin calls their IsoTrac suspension system. This is paired with a SR Suntour Auron LO-R fork and RockShox Monarch RL Debonair rear shock. The bike is also spec’ed with SRAM’s GX1 1×11 drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, WTB Volt saddle and tubeless-ready 27.5″ rims and tires. Bonus points for the Trans-X dropper post.

The Marin Mount Vision 6 is available in four sizes (SM, MD, LG, XL) and has an MSRP of $2,749.

Consider this bike if… you’re looking for something different with a solid 1x drivetrain and a dropper post included.

To learn more, visit www.marinbikes.com.

Continue to page 2 for more Round up: 13 great value mountain bikes under $3000 »
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About the author: Gregg Kato

Gregg Kato studied journalism and broadcasting in college while working many different jobs including deejaying, driving a forklift and building web sites (not all at the same time). Kato enjoys riding local Santa Cruz trails. Besides being an avid mountain biker, he is also a motorcycle fanatic. Two wheels, one Passion.


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  • Tony Lapinskas says:

    The critiques are valid. Next time you test an $8000.00 pivot, test the $3500.00 one right next to it, we don’t mind. Test your $469.00 dropper post but test the E-ten too. More balance is needed with all you bike mags. But, at least you aren’t as bad as those eliteist snobs at MB action. They have tested 48 full size bikes this year and only 8 were below $3000.00. The rest averaged $5472.27. Lead the way.

  • Jeff says:

    I’m with Tony on this one. MTBR is always reviewing and talking about how balanced this and that bike is. Well lets be balanced about the price, quality and what’s stands up against higher vs lesser priced bikes. There are far more (budget) minded riders then high end riders, who enjoy there pauper bikes as much as the high end bikers.

  • WasatchEnduro says:

    So many insane 2016 agressive trail bikes for under $3k: Devinci Troy RS $2999, Stumpjumper Comp (27.5 & 29) $2900, Process 134 $2900, Bronson A RAM $2900 (April), Intense Tracer/Spider Foundation $3k, and Transition has base models of the Scout & Smuggler for $3k now! It’s a good time to be shopping!

    • Bracken says:

      And all of the bikes you listed are more interesting to me than any of those featured in this article.

    • MikeB says:

      I just checked Santa Cruz website and there is no mention of aluminum frame bronson or 5010? I thought those were rolling out in April?

  • Rob says:

    Maybe I’m cheap, but I would say that affordable to many would not be $3000.

  • Ian says:

    Process 134 is the best of the group.

  • Mark says:

    Should have added the new Trek Farley 9 (aluminum hard-tail frame, Bluto fork, 27.5 x 3.8″ tires) to this list. This bike rolls well and handles well on dirt single track. It weighs about 28 lbs when set up tubeless which is about the same as the other $3000 bikes. In addition, you get a winter snow Fat bike. I just bought one and a I intend to use it as my year round mountain bike. Check it out!

  • Dan says:

    Can only find the 27.5 speedfox on the BMC site.

  • Jim says:

    I can’t afford a $3k bike so I bought an S-Works 26″ cf hardtail frame for $100 and fitted it up with 27.5 wheels and a Fox 26″ TALAS fork. There’s enough clearance front and rear. Works fine for me on technical singletrack up and down. I have several hundred miles on it so far.

  • James says:

    Really, not even a single Salsa in the lineup? I’d pick my Split-Pivot Spearfish over any of those on any day and it didn’t break my checking account.

  • SC Fan says:

    I been mountain biking for 27 years now, and the I’ve only bought one “off the showroom floor” bike in that time, and that was the first mountain bike I owned. Back in the 90′s it was common to by a frame and then chose the parts that you liked for building it up. Anytime I went to a new frame, I would take some parts (stem, seat, cranks and wheels) from my old bike, and with a mix of new parts would have a new bike that was made to order. I’ve been doing that every since. The magazines will tell you that you’ll spend more doing it this way, but I’ve yet to spend anywhere near 5K (okay, maybe 4K) on any of the 10 mountain bikes I’ve had through the years, and I currently have a very nice custom built single speed, and a very light and beautiful Santa Cruz suspension bike. I prefer picking my own parts as opposed to a product manager who’s looking to hit a price point doing it for me. I also love the custom look of the finished bike, instead of the run of the mill look that everyone else on the trail has. The deals are out there, you just have to go and find them.

    • Deb says:

      Your strategy of building/mixing parts is definitely the best, but you’ve invested 27 years into learning what works or doesn’t. That alone is worth a ton! If you were a noob who wanted to jump in and save himself all the research time, buying a well reviewed pre-built model is the second best option, IMO.

      What are your thoughts about the Santa Cruz Bronson R1x vs S? Is the $1,000 difference justified in parts upgrade in your opinion?

      https://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en-US/bronson

  • JJVance says:

    Solid article. I bought a 2016 Stumpjumper on sale for $2016. Then ordered Spank Oozy wheel set, shimano 1×11, XT brakes, shifted, BB, and cranks for $620 from Jensens sale. Now it is a $4,000 bike but paid a tad under $3,000. I like buying last years bikes on sale (if you can find), with a build up.

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